Season Review with Stu Jackson
Posted May 5 2007 1:01PM
NBA Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Stu Jackson sat down with NBA.com to go over the PowerPoint presentation he gave at the annual Board of Governors Meeting where he conducted a season review, officiating report and D-League update for those in attendance.
Scoring has been on the upswing in the NBA and increased by 1.8 points this year since last season. What do you think led to that?
Stu Jackson: I think the increase in scoring is due to a few things. One is the fact that weíre shooting the ball better from three-point range, but primarily itís due to the fact that we have an increasing number of teams that are playing a more open, up-tempo style of basketball focused on taking the first available shot. And, I also feel teams are making personnel decisions that are more focused on skill like shooting and dribbling the basketball.
Do you think thatís been the result of rule changes or do you think thatís been the result of teams like Phoenix having success with the up-and-down play?
SJ: The evolution of the rule changes over the past several years is beginning to settle in. In my opinion, the changes have also begun to affect teamsí player personnel decisions and additionally, more teams are making decisions to change their style of play and lastly, making coaching decisions based upon these factors. Specifically starting back when Sacramento began playing an up-tempo style and continuing with the Washington Wizards, the Phoenix Suns, the Dallas Mavericks, as well as other teams.
You point out that while scoring is going up, thereís not necessarily that many more shots and the reason for that has been the field goal percentage has gone up. What can we really attribute to that?
SJ: We attribute it to the fact that teams are getting more higher-quality shots because of teamsí abilities to penetrate the basketball. So, in other words, if you get more penetration, and more passes out of penetration, youíre going to tend to get higher-quality shots with more shooting set-up time. If you have more time to shoot the basketball, your percentage is going to increase. Because our rules are more focused on keeping the middle open and offering more opportunities for players to cut and penetrate the basketball in the middle of the floor, the quality of our perimeter shots has gone up and weíre also getting more higher-percentage shots inside.
Can you explain what went into the hand-check rule and break that down how itís been successful thus far?
SJ: The hand check has always been a part of pro basketball. What we have done is interpret the hand check slightly different in that, if a defender has what Iíll refer to as a ďstayed handĒ on the defender, e.g. with a stiffened elbow, a foul on the defense would be called if it affects the offensive player's speed, rhythm or balance. It's been five years since we really began to interpret the hand check in this way, and we continue to focus on enforcement.
Three years ago, before the í04-05 season, we also began to really interpret and enforce the forearm and body check, where by we had defenders either placing a hand or a forearm on an offensive playerís shoulder or hip in an effort to slow them down and give them a defensive advantage in terms of sliding in front of the offensive player. When we disallowed that Ė the use of the hand, the use of the forearm to the shoulder, the hip, the body Ė that in conjunction with the hand check interpretation started to give offensive players on the perimeter more offensive freedom.
Do you think there is more tinkering that has to be done, or do you think that now that youíve identified the body-checking aspect and the hand-checking aspect that this is sort of what you had in mind for the game?
SJ: Itís an area that weíll continue to monitor on an on-going basis, but right now, we like how weíre interpreting and how the officials are calling the game with respect to illegal contact, especially on the perimeter, and I donít anticipate weíre going to make any major change to it.
Letís change gears a little bit and talk about free-throw percentages. You break it down and compare the NBAís performance to other leagues such as the Euro League and the showing at the World Championship of Basketball and the NBAís numbers have been consistently better. The NBA has the stigma that the fundamentals of the league are deteriorating, but really this shows that the basic, fundamental skill of free-throw shooting is something that the NBA does better than any other league.
SJ: Itís the one area that itís an apples-to-apples comparison. Itís one area that refutes the argument that our players lack fundamentals. Historically, youíre right, weíve shot the ball better from the free-throw line better than many of the leagues and competitions around the world.
We talked about the ďRespect for the GameĒ clause in the beginning of the season. Back then, the rule led to a few superstar players to be tossed from games early, but still seemed to be taking hold and going according to plan. Since then, how do you think it went in its first year of implementation?
SJ: We felt it went extremely well. After an adjustment period by both the players and the officials, the results have been good and we feel itís a much cleaner game for our fans to watch. Despite all the attention that itís gotten, technical fouls were up just 11 percent over last year and still below the number of technical fouls in í04-05, so, we think itís wonderful. Itís gone well.
Letís talk about the points of emphasis for the referees going into this year. You mentioned, aside from the ďRespect for the Game," you actually wanted to pay attention to identifying dribbling violations this year. We can see that dribbling violations were called this season, it seems, more so than any other year.
SJ: Yes, weíre up about 142 percent over last year and it was significant point of emphasis for the officials this year and weíre trying to identify dribbling violations that blatantly give the offensive player and advantage over the defender in advancing the ball. Our officials have done a very good job of not only identifying the violations, but calling them accurately.
Moving forward to next year, whatís the process of identifying a point of emphasis? Do dribbling violations remain on the radar of the referees, or do you guys in the League Office meet with the Rules Committee and try to come up with other ways to improve the game?
SJ: Upon evaluation of this seasonís games, the League Office will meet with the Rules Committee and make recommendations about potential changes. But, ultimately itís up to the Rules Committee to recommend to the Board of Governors what changes we want to make. That being said, any point of emphasis that we implement with the officiating staff is a point of emphasis that we want to continue to maintain in the years going forward. Weíve seen that not only with dribbling violations over the last two years, but also with traveling and items such as defensive three seconds that we continue to make those points of emphasis.
Now letís move along to the D-League which enjoyed a very successful championship game with Darius Rice going off for 52 points. The league seems to be growing, can you talk about how itís becoming more integrated with what that NBA is and how it affects the NBA?
SJ: It affects the NBA positively and gives NBA teams the ability to assign players that they have under contract to help their contract players develop and give them actual game experience. The D-League continues to be an ever-increasing resource for NBA teams to call up players that are under contract with D-League teams. This year we had a record number of call-ups, 22, and with 16 players being utilized in those call ups. So itís just been a great resource for NBA teams to supplement their rosters.
It seems to be almost exponentially growing. If you look at this year, there were 35 former D-League players on opening day NBA rosters. A season ago, in 2005-06, there were only 17. So do you think itís really starting to pay off and mature as a league?
SJ: Without question itís starting to. Itís two things. Itís an indicator of how the strength of the D-League talent pool continues to grow, but itís also an indication of the increasing value of the D-League for NBA teams.
Another way you went out to illustrate the value of the D-League was buy outs by teams overseas. There is the Marcus Haislip example, where he was a former NBA player, then in the D-League, and then when an overseas team wanted him they had to pay for his D-League contract.
SJ: Thatís right. We have an agreement with international teams that in order to sign a D-League player under contract then that D-League team has to pay a fee. The number of buy outs by overseas teams continues to increase as well which is an indication as to the value of the D-League as a resource for player talent for leagues world wide.
I guess it also helps to establish the international feel for the NBA too, right? Because if youíre dealing with international clubs more often, doesnít that just help to forge contacts and better relationships that way?
SJ: Yes, without question itís becoming more of a reciprocal relationship. Certainly the NBA has the best players on the planet and we can say that because of the number of players that are signed by NBA teams internationally, but the international teams are reciprocating by drawing on the D-League at some level as a resource for their teams in their own countries.
Stu Jackson, the NBA's Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations, has been in professional basketball for more than a decade as an assistant coach, head coach, general manager and league official. Jackson is the NBA executive in charge of all on-court operations of the sport, including scheduling, officiating, game conduct and discipline. He is also the Chair of the Competition Committee, which recommends rules changes to the Board of Governors.